Reactor makers must share accident costs: Greenpeace

AFP, TOKYO

Wed, Feb 20, 2013 - Page 6

Anti-nuclear activists yesterday launched a global campaign to urge governments to force makers of nuclear reactors to shoulder some of the cost of accidents.

Greenpeace said in many countries blame for nuclear disasters falls on operators, but laws often limit their liability, leaving taxpayers to pick up the bill for compensation.

Meanwhile, suppliers of nuclear reactors, including GE, Toshiba and Hitachi, companies involved in the design and building of units at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, are often legally shielded from sharing blame for accidents involving their products, they said.

There have been no suggestions that the meltdowns that started after a tsunami thumped the plant nearly two years ago were in any way the fault of those companies.

“The nuclear industry evades responsibility in ... a big accident,” Aslihan Tumer of Greenpeace said.

“Every business around the world as well as all technologies have certain levels of risk when it comes to accidents,” Tumer said. “However, it’s only the nuclear industry that can avoid this risk despite the large, long-term and trans-boundary impacts that these accidents cause.”

The group’s campaign aims to raise public awareness that the same companies that make TVs and refrigerators also produce nuclear reactors, said activists, who hope social pressure will force businesses to rethink their nuclear strategy.

About 19,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands left homeless in March 2011 when a huge tsunami smashed into Japan, swamping the cooling systems of the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant and sending radiation over a large area.

Fukushima Dai-ichi operator Tokyo Electric Power Co bears legal responsibility under Japanese laws for compensating those affected by the accident.

The Japanese government has agreed to release ¥3.24 trillion (US$34 billion) worth of public funds to help the company with the payouts after bringing the utility under state control.